At least three times in the past week or so, I've entered a space, be it elevator or bathroom stall, following a woman of elderly persuasion, and been overwhelmed by a very familiar perfume smell, both pungent and intensely floral, causing me to, well, feel dizzy, then remark out loud "Smells like Grandma." This has brought me to wonder why it is that all grandmothers seem to wear the same perfume. And though it may not be the exact same brand of "Spring Flowers" from Crabtree & Evelyn (as I suspect one of the offending perfumes to be) but that there seems to be a cultural consensus on strength and specificity of floral scent appealing to this certain generation of women (and, perhaps implicity, their generation of men). Two questions emerge: the specific "why strong flower smell" question and "Why a generationally consistent perfume choice?"
To the first question, I wonder if the strong smell has to do with the difference in scent strengths in the 1940's- different chemical potentcies? Or strong smell as a status symbol in the depression era maybe? Or does strong perfume have more to do with weakened senses of smell by the wearers and their spouses? Will we wear stronger perfume as we get older to remind ourselves that we are still feminine? To cover the encroaching medicinal and bodily smells that are travesties of how deliciously we smell coming into the world as powder-fresh babies? I don't know the answer to any of these.
The second question of why a whole age of women would seem to wear the same perfume (and to my memory, my grandma has smelled this way for the 28 years I've known her) brings me to a recurring thought about when certain practices, preferences and abilities seem to solidify. I've heard various theories around this question, such as that:
1) women tend to dress in the style of the era during which they felt themselves to be at their personal peak of sexual attraction (why so many of our grandmothers still wear 1950's perms).
2) One's abiblity to draw stalls at the age that you stop doodling. Thus explaining why I draw at the level of a twelve year old.
3) Drug addiction causes emotional development to halt at the age one started abusing- ie: drug addicts with the emotional maturity of 14 year olds.
Now, please notice the above statement that these are theories and I don't neccesarrily agree or with any of them as law or generalized truths, but a lot makes sense about settling into what we think works either concsiously out of comfort, or subconsiously through seeming lack of options.
Which leads to me posit that in the 2030's there'll be a lot of grandmas smelling like Posion and Obsession, and around 2057 or so, there may be a lot of grandmas smelling like vanilla or CK One. I don't know which will be worse, but in the case of CKOne, grandmas and grandpas might all smell the same. Sorry grandkids...
Currents, May 2017
2 days ago